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Farmland heavy metals can migrate to deep soil at a regional scale: A case study on a wastewater-irrigated area in China

Highlights•Farmland As, Cd and Pb were found to migrate downward to deep soil in a wastewater irrigated area.•Clayey soil layers may detain more heavy metals than the sandy layers.•Wheat grains are of health risks across the whole area in terms of total metal concentrations.•This study reveals a wider and deeper risk of heavy metals associated with long-term wastewater irrigation.AbstractHeavy metal risks to human health in farmland of wastewater-irrigated areas have long been recognized. It remains to be shown whether farmland heavy metals from wastewater irrigation can migrate to deeper soil at a regional scale. In this study, nine soil cores deep to 30 m from three transects (A, B and C) of a linear wastewater reservoir and the adjacent farmland topsoils and wheat grains were sampled. Heavy metals including As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Pb and Zn in the soils and wheat grains were determined, and the grains’ health risks were assessed using the Target Hazard Quotient (THQ). Considerably high contents of heavy metals in both total and soluble forms were detected in deep soils, especially for the transect B where total As of 73.0 mg kg−1 at 29 m, Cd of 3.80 mg kg−1 at 13 m and Pb of 214 mg kg−1 at 30 m were detected. The silty clayey and silty layers of the transect B had higher contents of As, Cr, Cu, Pb and Zn compared with the sandy layers. Across the studied area, 19.5%–34.1% of the topsoil samples were contaminated by As, Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn, and 34.1% and 19.5% of the wheat grains were contaminated by Cd and Pb, respectively. Wheat grains from all the sampling sites had a combined target hazard quotient (TTHQ) value of >1, with As and Cd being the most important contributors. Our study revealed a wider and deeper risk of typical heavy metals originated from long-term wastewater irrigation in the sampling area, which may pose substantial health risks to the local residents via wheat grains and groundwater.Graphical abstractDownload : Download high-res image (337KB)Download : Download full-size image

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